INTERVIEW

ICYMI Leigh-Ann Rose Interview

For Leigh-Ann Rose, acting wasn’t even on her radar when she was growing up. “I was quite talkative,” she recalls. “I also wasn’t working to my full potential, so my mom actually took me out of high school because I was too much of a social butterfly, and put me in another high school. She told me, ‘If you do well in this school, then I’ll let you go back to your other high school for your senior year.’ Boy, I got to work and I did well, so I got to return to my original high school and finished my senior year.”

It was that tenacity that Rose assumed would serve her well when she enrolled at Syracuse University. “After four years of studying retail marketing and investing all that money into a college career, I became an assistant buyer for Bloomingdale’s,” she recounts. “I thought I was right where I wanted to be.” But it wasn’t. During college, “I had done some modeling for a local store, which required a little bit of acting, and I liked it. I wanted to add acting as a minor but at the time, it was too late to do that.”

However, when a career in retail wasn’t as fulfilling as she had hoped, Rose put her focus on performing. “On my birthday, I quit Bloomingdale’s,” she recounts. “I told myself that I could do this but it had to be all or nothing. I took bartending lessons so I could work as a bartender. I figured that would hold me over so I could get into an acting conservatory program called the William Esper Studio, and that’s when I jumped to focusing on the acting. I always say, ‘Walk in faith and it’ll happen.’ You just need to keep going.”

At first, her mother wasn’t on board. “She thought I was crazy,” Rose chuckles. “She said, ‘You just spent all this money on college and you’re going to throw it all away for this?’ She was just scared because she knew how unpredictable the entertainment business can be, but I told her, ‘I’m going to do it, Mom,’ and she supported my decision.”

To make it happen, Rose moved to New York City. “I just concentrated on studying and learn- ing the field because there was so much I didn’t know,” she sighs. “In the meantime, I was in college films for Columbia grad students, a web series [FAMOUS FARRAH], commercials, theater and dance troupes. I was doing a little bit of everything.”

At one point, Rose reached a crossroads. “I was getting over somebody, and as much as I loved New York, I wanted a fresh start,” she shares. “Also, New York can eat you up sometimes, and I needed a break. For me, it was either move to Los Angeles or Atlanta, and L.A. made more sense to me.”

However, there was some unexpected resistance from her team. “My agent was against me moving to L.A.,” Rose notes. “She loved theater, while I was like, ‘I really want to do TV and film.’ But the first time I visited L.A. was in 2011 and it didn’t go very well. After I landed and got out of that airport, I felt sick. I don’t know if it was from fright or anxiety but I felt overwhelmed and I thought, ‘Nah, I’m not moving here.’ ”

Rose’s career idled for the next two years, until she decided to give the West Coast another shot. “I don’t know why, but I was really excited about it,” she enthuses. “I guess it was all in the timing. I knew I was going to learn a lot because L.A. is so concentrated in entertainment. I also told myself that I didn’t have to get it right as soon as I arrived. It was just important to get here and see how I liked it. With that attitude, I wasn’t putting a lot of pressure on myself and it felt very positive.”

After settling into the City of Angels, Rose immediately found work. “The first job I booked was a guest-starring role on LAW AND ORDER — in New York,” she laughs. “I had to fly back there for it because they thought I still lived in New York, but because of that job, I got a manager in L.A. It wasn’t long until I got my first contract role on [Tyler Perry’s] LOVE THY NEIGHBOR.”

After playing Troy on that series for a year, three TV movies followed before the pandemic closed everything down in March 2020. Like many people in the country, Rose didn’t work for months until Y&R was ready to cast Amanda’s sudden sister, Imani. “I had been at Y&R years ago to audition for another part but I don’t remember for which character,” Rose relays. “I was happy to read for them again; in fact, I was really excited about it, but this time I would have to send in a self-tape. They sent me the sides and a friend read them to me over the phone while I stared into the camera and said my lines. I could relate to Imani, although sometimes you don’t want to admit, ‘That’s me.’ ”

After submitting her audition, Rose waited two weeks to discover that the gig was hers. “I knew that it was important to stay healthy, so I completely isolated myself in my little cocoon,” she says. “I thought, ‘Until I get to that set, I can’t be social at all.’ I was determined to stay fit and ready to go.” After meeting her TV mother and sister (see sidebar), Rose has been reveling in her first daytime role. “Well, let’s put it this way: My friends say, ‘Oh, you’re just playing yourself,’ ” she smiles. “You could tell that Imani had been spoiled, which I have to admit, I was as well. My mom and I have this running joke that I was spoiled with love. But like Imani, I didn’t know how much I was being indulged because it’s just the life you know. I love that Imani is strong. She’s opinionated and lets you know but she means well. She goes after what she wants, and once she has your back, she has your back. I know some people may see her as a troublemaker but I don’t think she is. She’s very determined.”

Rose is excited to see what’s on deck for Imani, whether it’s romance, getting closer to her sister or becoming a full-fledged lawyer. “I think she can do all of those things,” the actress declares. “First, how can she not flirt with Nate?! But most importantly, I want to see Imani’s relationship evolve with Amanda. I would really love to see Amanda happy — and with a family.”

Family Ties:

“It was a blessing,” Rose opines about getting to work closely with Ptosha Storey (Naya) and Mishael Morgan (Amanda). “I met Ptosha on my first day and I was like, ‘Oh, she’s so pretty,’ then my next thought was, ‘How can she be my mom? She looks more like my sister,’ ” Rose remembers . “Ptosha is so sweet, so warm and very genuine. I just love being around her.”

Rose was equally impressed with Morgan. “Mishael is an amazing person,” she praises. “I just love her. It’s like she really is my big sister. She’s so open and loves to share. She’s very inclusive and welcoming. The three of us immediately bonded and it’s nice that we have that family dynamic; it feels so good and so real. We’ll go out to lunch and just have fun chatting.”

Rose also enjoyed working with Karla Mosley (ex-Maya, B&B), who subbed as Amanda when Morgan was out for a health issue. “They did such a good job of matching her with Amanda,” says Rose. “Karla and Mishael’s tone, pitch and delivery are so similar. I found out the day before that I’d be working with Karla, I was really nervous because I didn’t know what her style and demeanor would be like, but when I met her, I was like, ‘Oh. She’s so much like Mishael.’ It was all good.”

Just The Facts:

Birthday: June 23

Birthplace: Plainfield, NJ

Family Matters: “I grew up in a three-generation home. It was me, my mom and my grandparents until I was around 8, when my mom and I were on our own.”

Relationship Status: Single, with a significant other.

TV Musts: “I love watching dramedies; some of my favorite shows are THE BOYS, WHITE LOTUS, COLUMBO and anything REAL HOUSEWIVES.”

Music To Her Ears: “Miguel, Beyoncé and Bazzi are my go-tos when I get ready to go out. I also love old-school reggae, like Shabba Ranks and Patra and some ’70s disco music.”

Kicking Back: “When I’m trying to relax, I like to sew, and stationary cycling class really helps. I also enjoy reading self-help books.”

Strings Attached: “I studied the violin for a little over a year. My mom and grandma insisted that I try different activities like ballet, karate, cheerleading, choir … and there’s definitely more [laughs].”

Pet Project: A 4½ year old shihtzu mix, Nicky. “She’s the apple of my eye and absolutely spoiled. She has her own wardrobe!”

Home Base: “My taste when decorating my home consists of a monotone foundation with pastel accent pieces. I love to use gray and white as a canvas.”

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